My mother is a wise woman who has taught me many things. As Mother’s Day approaches I’ve been thinking about her most valuable ‘pearls of wisdom’. The one that stands out most is that mothering has a lot in common with the art, skill and joy of flying a kite.
Like many, when I became a mother I was overwhelmed by the responsibility. In spite of all the experiences and advice readily shared those who had been there before me, I was bewildered. There was no definitive guidebook and besides, like all children, my daughter was unique. The book on how to raise her had yet to be written and I was floundering.
After patiently listening to my anguished account of one particularly gruelling day, my Mum shared this insight and suddenly it all made sense.
Mothering is like flying a kite.
To prepare we ensure the kite is sound; the string is firmly attached; the handle is strong and our feet are planted firmly on the ground.
When our babies take their first steps, we let the string out a little. As it whips and turns we hold on tight and keep it close. Invariably in those early days, it comes crashing to the ground whilst occasionally floating for a few precious minutes.
As our children grow and set out to explore the world, the kite becomes more confident. The string tenses and we let it out a little further. Magically, it stays afloat a little longer – catching the breeze, sometimes dipping and turning before it returns safely to us.
Through the teenage years the kite seeks to fly higher and the string tightens, straining to be free. Cautiously, we let the string out a little further. Sometimes it becomes tangled in the trees and we carefully climb up to retrieve it. Winding it back in a little, we firm our grip until it feels safe and secure again.
Some days the kite won’t want to go out flying, preferring to curl up on the couch in its PJs, safe and secure in the comfort of home. Brought in for running repairs, all the kite needs is a bowl of hot soup and a cuddle. It doesn’t need a mother to tell it how to fly, it simply needs a mother to stay attached on the other end of the string.
Over time we become more adept and the kite stretches further into the sky as our children soar towards independence and freedom. While it reaches great heights, swooping and arcing until it becomes a dot in the distance, it’s always attached. With pride we watch it achieve great things, catching the currents of life and weathering occasional strong winds.
The art of mothering is all about knowing when to let the string out; when to reel it back in and when to simply leave it be.
Now my daughter is a young adult, we’ve learnt how to fly the kite together. These days we venture out to fly alongside each other, sharing flights and experiences whenever we can. More often we fly solo, always knowing that the string is attached. I know that when the time comes, I'll be there gently guiding my daughter as she learns how to fly rather than be the kite.
Thank you to my mother for teaching this valuable lesson, to my daughter for allowing me to make mistakes and to both of them for helping me master the art of kite flying.
Happy Mother’s Day to all those Mums out there who are learning how to let their children soar.
What 'pearl of wisdom' has your mother shared that's made your role as a mother that bit easier?